Transparent postmortem

When I play IF, I’m always prepared to take notes. It’s IF.

I’m not sure. I’d argue that the two problems are two facets of the same wider question. But, agreed, a discussion like this has it’s place.

Something I probably didn’t take into account also when I wrote this…IFComp is supposed to be two hour games. I always forget that because it feels like the “big” comp with full games, and it makes sense that people aren’t going to strap on the long-haul wading boots. If they pay for a game like Hadean Lands or a post-commercial Infocom, they are likely much more invested.

I do think people’s patience is a little less than before - I know mine is. IF has an adoption period like a book. If a work is longer than an hour and does not railroad the plot, the reader does need to be hooked and invested just as with a novel.

Spacechem and Braid seem different from Transparent, though; for that matter Hadean Lands seems different from Transparent from what I’ve heard. (Here’s where I confess that Transparent looked neat but that I played at as long as it took me to get the batteries into the camera, and then decided to wait for a post-comp version with a more forgiving inventory limit.) They basically present puzzles in a linear order and are (almost) always quite explicit about where the puzzles are–there’s some hidden stuff in Braid but I don’t think most people find it on their own. Braid has a nonlinear and badly written story but that’s not what’s getting people to do the work.

Whereas from what I understand Transparent does not wear its puzzles or mechanics on its sleeve. You need to do the work and exploration to discover that there’s more to do, right? It’s what Joel Goodwin calls a secret box, where you could easily not discover all that there is to do. The indie game version of this is maybe something like FEZ or Proteus… but FEZ was the second most hyped indie game ever after Braid, so I don’t know how much we can learn from its success, and I’m not sure if Proteus has been such a huge seller. Anyway I don’t think it’s something where you fiddle around it and discover there’s so much more you can be doing, or maybe I’m doing it wrong.

And… yeah, it seems to me that for the player to have an incentive to keep poking at a game for the hidden systems, what isn’t ideal is for the game to come with a two-hour time limit and a bunch of other games to play. And in general I’m really happy not to have a game that leads me on by the nose! But a game that entices me into situations where it’s easy to stumble over the hidden stuff is nice. I don’t know what the golden mean there might be.

(For that matter a really damn small percentage of the people who start SpaceChem finish it. I think it’s a sign of a lack of hookiness that people don’t get more likely to finish the next level the farther they get in the game, but that may be somewhat sour grapey because whenever I fire up the level I have to do I’m like, man, this is just work.)

Back in my age, I preferred IF (me and not many others I know, and this should be accounted for) exactly because it gave me TIME. It needed time, and gave me back some. Thoughts, reasoning, stories.

Is life’s pacing changed? Well, of course: I was a teenager doing nothing, now I have two jobs and a family. But that’s not all. Fact is that today’s life is made from Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, as opposed to the time when we had Newspapers, Books, The Cinema. (Well, ok, we still have those, but I guess only Hollywood still has the upper hand, right?). We are not used to giving things time anymore. (Not counting that – maybe – 42 games are toooooooooo many for the Comp span).

So, Ok, the times they are a-changed. We should adapt to the times. But. We only have the IFComp (and maybe ParserComp and maybe-maybe the Spring Thing) to show our work and hope it gains some attention. And if we want to tell a nicer, wider, longer, puzzle-r, story…? If the Comp is not the right place, which one is?